Alexander Volkanovski isn’t sure who’s next in line for a shot at his title.
Volkanovski, the recently crowned UFC featherweight champ, is expected to be sidelined for the first half of the year after undergoing surgery for a broken hand suffered in his last fight. Volkanovski (21-1 MMA, 8-0 UFC) dethroned previous champ Max Holloway at UFC 245 in December, shutting him down over the course of five rounds.
And since it will be at least a few months before he even gets to punch with his right hand, Volkanovski thinks the featherweights need to go after it until somebody cements himself as No. 1 contender.
“I’m sitting on the sidelines with a broken hand, and there’s people that are coming up,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie. “There are all these guys that want titles, but it depends on potential matchups, but no one is the clear No. 1 contender. That’s what’s sort of (happening) right now. While I’ve got a broken hand, why doesn’t someone go and take that No. 1 contender spot?”
It took Volkanovski seven UFC fights before he got a crack at the title, which included wins over multiple-time featherweight title challenger Chad Mendes and arguably the greatest 145 pounder of all time, former UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo in enemy territory.
And just for good measure, when Holloway took on Frankie Edgar at UFC 240 in July, Volkanovski flew halfway across the world to serve as a backup in case the main event fell through.
In other words, Volkanovski did everything necessary to leave no doubt that he was next in line. Now he thinks the rest of the division should be battling to do the same.
“There are fights you need to fight to put yourself in a position where no one can take it away from them, just like I had done when I was in Canada,” Volkanovski said. “The weight cut was terrible to back up for the title fight. Going to Brazil to fight the No. 1 contender Aldo and going to a different country just knowing that that’s how you get the No. 1 contender spot, I went and done it. I just think that this is an opportunity for guys that, if they really want that title fight, again I’m looking to fight mid-year, hopefully something like that. People have to go and take that No. 1 spot. Go and take it.”
The current top contenders include Chan Sung Jung, who’s won three of his last four, all by way of first-round knockout, as well as the likes of the streaking Zabit Magomedsharipov and Yair Rodriguez.
While Volkanovski isn’t too concerned with who’s next, he just doesn’t see an obvious choice.
“I’m happy to fight any of them, but I just want the No. 1 contender,” Volkanovski said. “I want someone who’s the clear No. 1. If there’s that much debate on who should be next, don’t let there be debate. Go take it.
“It seems like they’re all one fight away from a title fight. I just don’t think they should be sitting on the sidelines waiting.”
If not any of the top contenders, it could end up being Holloway once again in a rematch, but Volkanovski thinks his win was definitive enough and should not necessarily warrant a rematch.
“We’re in a bit of a picky spot right now, so a lot of people … I don’t even know if Max wants to fight,” he said. “I think the question is – and I heard that a lot – ‘Does he deserve a rematch?’ Yeah, I clearly won that fight.”
But if it does end up being Holloway again, it won’t be hard for Volkanovski to get up for the fight, despite convincingly beating him.
“It’s never going to be hard for me to fight him,” Volkanovski said. “Like even in a rematch, I’ll always be motivated. I’m not going to look at it like the first fight. I’m going to look at it as another job that needs to be done.”